Guitar One / Mojo Grande



Although Finland, to its credit, has produced a number of fine guitarists over the years, as well as a respected surf band (Laika & the Cosmonauts), it’s not exactly a hub for all things six-string. Nevertheless, Finnish guitar builders Versoul and Ruokangas are making great strides in the American market with the two axes here: one a new take on an old classic, the other a unique vision of a specialty item. Both are fine examples Scandinavian design as applied to the electric guitar.

…and here’s what Guitar One writes about the Mojo:

On his Website, Juha Ruokangas declares: “Ten years ago, I didn’t really understand what was the [fuss] about this style of gui tar anyway. They seemed worn out and boring – not enough technical fun stuff for a young luthier. The more experi ence I gain, the better I realize that the simple ways are in many cases the best ways of all.” Ruokangas built the Mojo Grande after guitarone_2005_1discovering the joys of the original American electric-guitar design. And rather than pile on useless decorative trim and cumbersome switching systems, Ruokangas has chosen to concentrate on bringing an extremely high level of crafts­manship to a basic guitar style that has been modified often but rarely improved upon. That said he has managed to add a few twists of his own.

For starters, the Mojo Grande’s hollow-chambered cedar body gives off a pleas ant, clothes-chest – or (clean) ham ster-cage – smell. The hole in the birch top is not an “f” but rather a two-part aperture whose design is very “Scandinavian looking”. The darkish stain on the maple neck blends beau tifully with the body’s tobacco-sunburst fin ish, and the two tiered headstock embellishes this classic design while pay ing hom age to the original. The nut, in Finnish fashion, is made of moose shinbone. The gold Wilkinson WT3 bridge is of the classic pickup-mounting, three-saddle variety; the saddles are bent, áIa Danny Gatton, for better intonation, and fea ture setscrews, which lock them onto the intonation screw. The hand-wound pick ups include a wood-carved single-coil (yet humbucker-sized) neck model and a traditional bridge model. The overall impression is one of exceptional quali ty – and this doesn’t stop with the looks. The Mojo Grande just melts into your hands; it feels as if there’s nothing stand ing between your fingers and making music. The frets, like the body, are fin ished flawlessly, the intonation is excep tional, and the acoustic tonal response is exquisitely even. The action came in a little high, but lowering it even consid erably caused neither a hint of buzz nor any fretting out.

guitarone_2005_2Plugging in was pure pleasure. Through a Reverend Hellhound, the neck pickup had a P-90’s attitude, enough girth for jazz, and plenty of bite for blues – with zero mud. The bridge pickup showed no harsh edges yet still manifested plenty of twang. Both pickups proved quiet for singlecoils and together canceled all hum while yielding a lovely chime on the riff below. The hollow chambers enhanced the acoustic properties and added to the expressiveness of the instrument.

For decades, serious classical musicians, keyboard players, horn players, and drummers have been shelling out thousands of dollars for the tools of their trade. Guitarists, however, are just get­ting used to paying premium prices for quality instruments. Sure, you can get a playable guitar for $300 — but when you play something like the Mojo Grande, you realize that there is a difference between a $300 guitar and a $4,330 guitar, mostly in the craftsmanship and sonic qualities. In short, the Mojo Grande’s upscale price is totally justified.

In Finland, tradition is respected but not worshiped. From Saarinen’s interiors and Marimekko’s fabrics in the ‘50s to the latest Nokia cell phone, Finnish designs have always exemplified a combination of simplicity and quality. Now, these two Finnish luthiers have demonstrated how to do simple the right way: by keeping the ideas fresh and the workmanship top notch. Now we know what they really do on those long winter nights.

by Michael Ross

Guitar One, June 2005